By Chris Zinn
The first step to achieving any goal is to decide what that goal is. What you want to achieve, when you want to achieve it, what you’re going to do to achieve it, etc. All of this planning is extremely important so that you can have a clear picture of what you want to achieve.
I commonly see people set goals, and when they don’t achieve them, they crown themselves as a failure and say things like, “Well, I’m just not built for that” or “I don’t have the genetics to get there”. While this may be true in some cases, a vast majority of the time it’s a result of poor goal planning.
Someone might set a goal that goes something like this:
“I want to lose weight”
Then when summer comes, and they haven’t lost that weight they think, “Well, I didn’t hit the amount of weight I had in my head, so I failed”.
The truth is, however, that they didn't fail due to a lack of ability. Instead, it was a lack of a real plan to follow.
That said, let’s look closer at that goal you set for yourself and how to better plan for success.
When you set goals they should be SMART goals. SMART is just an acronym for the suggested elements of a good goal-setting process.
Your goals must be:
S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Relevant
T = Time Bound
A SMART goal is important because it ensures that you will have a clear picture of the intended outcome. This type of goal will also help you to stay motivated, hold yourself accountable, and be able to track progress as you go.
Having a SMART goal gives you a much better chance at success because you've taken the time to set reasonable boundaries, develop meaning and motivation around the goal, and define a path to follow.
Now, let’s take that goal we set earlier and make it a SMART goal!
Here's what we're starting with:
“I want to lose weight”
S - Specific
The first thing to do is to make sure that your goal is specific enough. If it isn’t you may get confused along your way to that goal about what your original intentions were. If you don't have a clearly defined picture of success from the start, you're set up for failure.
So, if “I want to lose weight” starts out as a nebulous goal of just losing some weight, you won't really know where you're trying to get to or what you are trying to achieve.
Instead of just saying “I want to lose weight”, we can change it to:
“I want to lose 20lbs”
There, now there’s no fooling yourself. You either lose 20lbs or you don't...no gray area!
A lot of people are afraid to commit themselves to a specific outcome because they're afraid of inviting failure. Instead, if they don't plan on losing a specific amount of weight, they can't fail, right?
The problem with that kind of thinking is that you never have a defined outcome, and so there's no way to motivate yourself to accomplish that outcome. As soon as you don't feel like losing weight, you'll allow yourself to get off track.
M - Measurable
The second thing to do is to make sure that your goal can be measured. Otherwise, how are you going to track it?
You can measure weight loss with a scale, so we’re good to go here.
Some goals may be more different to measure, but you still must commit to a method of measuring outcomes for your goal to be SMART.
A - Attainable
Another important thing is to make sure the goal you set is attainable. That means it's within reach with your current skillset.
Now, don’t confuse this with setting the bar low for yourself. You can still set ambitious goals - and you probably should to make sure that you're motivated! Setting attainable goals, however, means that you take into account your experience with weight loss, your age, your gender, your daily schedule, etc.
Let’s say you’re a 50-year-old woman, working a full-time job, who has never attempted to lose weight before. 20lbs might be a lot to start with, so let's lower your goal weight to start with something more realistic to attain. And that's the key - attainable really just means setting realistic expectations based on your current circumstances and abilities.
So, instead of trying to lose 20lbs right now, we're going to change the goal to:
"I want to lose 15lbs."
R - Relevant
You also need to make sure that your goal is relevant. Relevant simply means that it is in line with your overall life goals and that it is what you want for yourself right now. If your goal is not relevant to your overall vision for your life, then you will lack meaning behind your goal.
If you lack meaning, you'll also lack motivation, and that will set you up for failure.
So, the goal that you set should align with your values or long-term objectives.
If losing weight is relevant to your lifestyle, then go ahead and start your weight loss! However, it may not be everyone's goal to lose weight. Some people may want to gain weight or maintain weight.
Just make sure this is the direction you want to head in, and that losing weight is relevant to your overall life goals.
T - Time-Bound
Lastly, you need to have a definite boundary on the timeframe in which you will achieve your goal - otherwise, you'll never get started!
This timeframe needs to be realistic and also motivating. If you don't set a short enough timeframe in which to achieve your goal, you'll just drag your feet...kind of like a college student with that big term paper!
On the other hand, if your time restraint is too strict, you may end up thinking you're a failure when in reality you just didn’t give yourself enough time to hit your goal.
So, let’s give your goal a realistic time restraint:
“I want to lose 15lbs within 120 days.”
There, now we have a reasonable time frame to try and achieve our goal within.
SMARTer Goal Setting
These steps to make your goals SMART upfront may not seem all that important. After all, you just added a couple of words and numbers to the original goal!
However, taking your goal from "I want to lose weight", to "I want to lose 15lbs within 120 days because it's relevant to my goal of being healthy and living my best life", is a complete game-changer.
Now you have a specific goal that you can measure. You've also given yourself a realistic timeframe to achieve it within. Most importantly, though, you've tied it to your greater life vision and made it relevant and motivating.
Now you're ready to go achieve that goal!
Keep in mind that it might be a good idea to start with some smaller goals that fit into a “bigger picture” goal instead of packing everything you want into one big goal. Segment your goals and break them up into more manageable bite-size pieces to ensure success.
For example, if your main goal is to run a certain distance - say 5 miles - then come up with several smaller goals that are relevant to the larger goal. For example, you may set a goal of running half that distance in a shorter period to make the main goal seem less intimidating.
Doing so also provides some motivation and momentum along the way as you hit those smaller goals.
When your goals are created and managed effectively, they will be much more attainable which will keep you on track and feeling productive.
So, get out there, set some goals, and test it out! You'll be surprised at how easy it becomes to achieve your goals once you make them SMARTer.
Want to find out more about better goal-setting to achieve lasting weight loss or any other health and fitness goal? You can get started today working with The Med Gym's own Certified Nutrition Coach, Chris Zinn, in our Nutrition Coaching Program.
If you've tried diet after diet and struggled to reach your goals, nutrition coaching may be the answer you need. Working with a qualified nutrition coach to craft and stick to the plan that is the right fit for you can be game-changing!
Contact us here to learn more about nutrition coaching and how you can get started.